US Intelligence Agencies Try …

… to Strong-Arm Trump into War With Russia

by Mike Whitney

CounterPunch (January 10 2017)

Powerful elites are using the credibility of the US Intelligence agencies to demonize Russia and prepare the country for war. This is the real meaning of the “Russia hacking” story which, as yet, has not produced any hard evidence of Russian complicity.

Last week’s 25-page report, that was released by the Director of National Intelligence (“DNI”), James Clapper, illustrates to what extent intelligence is being “fixed around the policy”. Just as the CIA generated false information related to Weapons of Mass Destruction to soften public resistance to war with Iraq, so too, the spurious allegations in the DNI’s politically-motivated report are designed to depict Russia as a growing threat to US national security. The timing of the report has less to do with the election of Donald Trump as President than it does with critical developments in Syria where the Russian military has defeated US-proxies in Syria’s industrial hub, Aleppo, rolling back Washington’s fifteen-year War of Terror and derailing the imperialist plan to control vital resources and pipeline corridors across the Middle East and Central Asia. Russia has become the main obstacle to Washington achieving its strategic vision of pivoting to Asia and maintaining its dominant role into the next century. The Intelligence Community has been coerced into compromising its credibility to incite fear of Russia and to advance the geopolitical ambitions of deep state powerbrokers.

The “Russia hacking” flap shows how far the intelligence agencies have veered from their original mandate, which is to impartially gather and analyze information that may be vital to US national security. As we have seen in the last two weeks, the leaders of these organizations feel free to offer opinions on issues that clearly conflict with those of the new President-elect. Trump has stated repeatedly that he wants to reduce tensions and reset relations with Russia, but that policy is being sabotaged by members of the intelligence community, particularly CIA Director John Brennan who appeared just last week on PBS Newshour with Judy Woodruff. Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

 

 

We see that there are still a lot of actions that Russia is undertaking that undermine the principles of democracy in so many countries. What has happened in our recent election is not new. The Russians have engaged in trying to manipulate elections in Europe for a number of years …

… the Russians tried to interfere in our electoral process recently, and were actively involved in that. And that is something that we can’t countenance. {1}

 

 

Brennan, of course, provided no evidence for his claims nor did he mention the hundreds of CIA interventions around the world. But Brennan’s accusations are less important than the fact that his appearance on a nationwide broadcast identifies him as a political advocate for policies that conflict with those of the new president. Do we really want unelected intelligence officials – whose job it is to provide the president with sensitive information related to national security – to assume a partisan role in shaping policy? And why would Brennan – whose is supposed to “serve at the pleasure of the president” – accept an invitation to offer his views on Russia when he knew they would be damaging to the new administration?

Powerful people behind the scenes are obviously pushing the heads of these intelligence agencies to stick to their “anti-Moscow” narrative to force Trump to abandon his plan for peaceful relations with Moscow. Brennan isn’t calling the shots and neither are Clapper or Comey. They’re all merely agents serving the interests of establishment plutocrats whose geopolitical agenda doesn’t jibe with that of the incoming administration. If that wasn’t the case, then why would the Intelligence Community stake its reputation on such thin gruel as this Russian hacking gibberish? It doesn’t make any sense. The people who launched this campaign are either supremely arrogant or extremely desperate. Which is it? Here’s an excerpt from an article by veteran journalist Robert Parry sums it up like this in an article at Consortium News:

 

 

The DNI report amounted to a compendium of reasons to suspect that Russia was the source of the information – built largely on the argument that Russia had a motive for doing so because of its disdain for Democratic nominee Clinton and the potential for friendlier relations with Republican nominee Trump.

But the case, as presented, is one-sided and lacks any actual proof. Further, the continued use of the word “assesses” – as in the US intelligence community “assesses” that Russia is guilty – suggests that the underlying classified information also may be less than conclusive because, in intelligence-world-speak, “assesses” often means “guesses”. {2}

Bottom line: Brennan and his fellow spooks have nothing. The report is little more than a catalogue of unfounded assumptions, baseless speculation and uncorroborated conjecture. In colloquial parlance, it’s bullshit, 100 percent, unalloyed Russophobic horse-manure. In fact, the authors admit as much in the transcript itself when they say:

 

 

Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact. Assessments are based on collected information, which is often incomplete or fragmentary, as well as logic, argumentation, and precedents.

 

 

What kind of kooky admission is that? So the entire report could be BS but we’re supposed to believe that Putin flipped the election? Is that it???

What’s really going on here? Why have the Intelligence agencies savaged their credibility just to convince people that Russia is up to no good?

The Russia hacking story has more to do with recent developments in Syria than it does with delegitimizing Donald Trump. Aleppo was a real wake up call for the US foreign policy establishment which is beginning to realize that their plans for the next century have been gravely undermined by Russia’s military involvement in Syria. Aleppo represents the first time that an armed coalition of allied states (Russia, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah) have actively engaged US jihadist-proxies and soundly beat them to a pulp. The stunning triumph in Aleppo has spurred hope among the vassal states that Washington’s bloody military juggernaut can be repelled, rolled back and defeated. And if Washington’s CIA-armed, trained and funded jihadists can be repelled, then the elitist plan to project US power into Central Asia to dominate the world’s most populous and prosperous region, will probably fail. In other words, the outcome in Aleppo has cast doubts on Uncle Sam’s ability to successfully execute its pivot to Asia.

That’s why the intelligence agencies have been employed to shape public perceptions on Russia. Their job is to prepare the American people for an escalation of hostilities between the two nuclear-armed superpowers. US powerbrokers are determined to intensify the conflict and reverse facts on the ground. (Recent articles by elites at the Council on Foreign Relations and the Brookings Institute reveal that they are as committed to partitioning Syria as ever.) Washington wants to reassert its exceptional role as the uncontested steward of global security and the lone “unipolar” world power.

That’s what this whole “hacking” fiasco is about. The big shots who run the country are trying to strong-arm “the Donald” into carrying their water so the depredations can continue and Central Asia can be transformed into a gigantic Washington-dominated corporate free trade zone where the Big Money calls the shots and Capital reigns supreme. That’s their dreamstate, Capitalist Valhalla.

They just need Trump to get-with-the-program so the bloodletting can continue apace.

Links:

{1} http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/watch-full-exit-interview-cia-director-john-brennan/

{2} https://consortiumnews.com/2017/01/07/us-report-still-lacks-proof-on-russia-hack/
_____

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (2012). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

More articles by Mike Whitney: http://www.counterpunch.org/author/mike-whitney/

http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/01/10/us-intel-agencies-try-to-strong-arm-trump-into-war-with-russia/

Categories: Uncategorized

Buoyant Putin …

… and Sinking Western Mis-Leaders

by Finian Cunningham

Information Clearing House (January 01 2017)

Future historians may well record 2016 a vintage year for Russian President Vladimir Putin. At any rate, at this point we can say it has been a good year for the Russian leader and his country’s international standing. Even Western media, which did its best to discredit, even demonize, Putin have had to admit so, albeit begrudgingly.

This week, the London Financial Times described the Russian leader as “Buoyant Putin”. While last week, The Washington Post headlined: “Moscow has the world’s attention. For Putin, that’s a win”.

The Washington Post surveyed some of the key developments over the past year as being in Putin’s favor, including a shaky European Union and the British Brexit vote to quit the bloc, an unwieldy Nato military alliance unsure of its purpose, the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency, and the retaking of the strategic Syrian city of Aleppo.

The victory by the Syrian army in Aleppo, crucially aided by Russian military power, was surely a crowning achievement for Putin. When Putin ordered intervention in Syria at the end of 2015, it was predicted by US President Barack Obama that the move would result in a quagmire for Russia. A year later, Putin’s decisive intervention has been vindicated as rolling back a jihadist campaign to destroy Syria.

Syrians celebrating the defeat of extremists in Aleppo have not only confounded earlier predictions; the “liberation”, as it is being feted by Syrians, serves to expose Western governments and their media as having grossly distorted the war as some kind of popular uprising against a “tyrannical regime”, rather than being what it is: a foreign-backed criminal conspiracy for regime change deploying jihadi terror proxies.

So the Russian-backed military campaign in Syria is a clear winning event for Vladimir Putin.

However, on the range of other world events outlined above, while they may be said to be in Putin’s favor, it is more a case of denial by Western leaders about their own failures, instead of attributing these setbacks to the alleged machinations of the Russian leader.

Putin may indeed be “buoyant”. But it is also true that the mixed political fortunes are due to the sinking of Western mis-leaders through their own incompetence and baleful policies.

The Washington Post article cited above had this to say: “The Russian leader is winning because the post-Cold War order he has railed against has been thrown into chaos, and the Kremlin’s fingerprints are widely seen to be all over it”.

Just who is “widely seeing” the Kremlin’s alleged depredations is not specified by The Washington Post. But a safe assumption is that the newspaper is being led by US intelligence and the CIA in particular, whose multi-million-dollar links to the outlet’s owner Jeff Bezoz have been documented elsewhere by Wayne Madsen.

It is true that Putin has often deplored the post-Cold War order of American unipolar ambitions, its disregard for international law and its conceited “exceptionalism” for unleashing military violence to enforce foreign interests. Putin has said that such policy is the fount of chaos in international relations. If anything, he has been proven right when we survey the conflict-ridden mess of the Middle East from US wars, supposed “nation-building” and regime-change operations. But to then attribute this chaos of the post-Cold War as having the “Kremlin’s fingerprints all over it” is an absurdity.

The same goes for other aspects of post-Cold War “chaos”. The election of Donald Trump to the White House is alleged by The Washington Post, The New York Times, NBC and other US media giants as being the result of Putin overseeing Russian computer hackers interfering in American democracy. Russia has rejected those claims as “ridiculous” – as has Trump.

Rather than dealing with political and social reality of internal decay, the American establishment has tried to divert the cause to alleged Russian malfeasance. The reality is, however, that popular American sentiment is one of disgust with the Washington establishment and its mis-leaders in both main parties, Democrats and Republicans. That disgust embroils the mainstream media which is seen to be an integral part of a corrupt, venal establishment.

To try to lay the “blame” for Trump’s election on Russian cyber-attacks is an insult to a large section of the American citizenry. It is also a sign of chronic denial by the Washington establishment that decades of economic and foreign policy are in shambles – a shambles of its own making.

The same too for the Brexit referendum held in June which saw the stunning result of Britons wanting to quit the European Union. On the back of CIA-inspired claims about Russian interference, British politicians who are miffed over the Brexit result have parlayed similar claims that the Kremlin’s meddling was behind that outcome. Russia has also hit back to rubbish the British claims.

But rather than getting a grip on reality, the official Western paranoia about alleged Russian subversiveness is becoming even more fevered.

With hotly contested national elections coming up next year across Europe, incumbent governments are decrying what they “discern” as Russian interference to push populist, anti-EU, anti-immigrant parties. Voice of America (“VOA“) reported this week: “Europe braces for Russian cyber assault before 2017 elections” in Netherlands, France and Germany.

VOA added: “As the chief European architect of sanctions against Russia, analysts say German Chancellor Angela Merkel is the European leader Moscow would most like to see voted out of power”.

As with the Brexit and Trump, it is an elitist insult to citizens’ intelligence and their democratic rights, by imposing what is a scare-campaign to discredit widespread popular discontent with establishment governments and the status quo.

People across the West, the US and Europe, are simply infuriated by elitist governments that pursue failed policies of economic austerity and a pro-Atlanticist Cold War geopolitical agenda of hostility towards Russia, inflating a Nato monstrosity based on Russophobia, and slavishly following American imperialism around the world.

Syria may have proven to be a triumph for Putin and his principled stand to defend Syrian sovereignty from a US-led covert war for regime change. But Syria also represents an unmitigated disaster for Washington and its Atlanticist European acolytes.

The massive influx of refugees from Syria and other Middle East war zones is the direct result of the US and its Nato allies waging illegal wars and sponsoring terrorist proxies – the latter in the mendacious notion of being “moderate rebels”.

The terror attacks that have shocked France and Germany over the past year – the latest one in Berlin when twelve people at a Christmas market were killed by an alleged jihadist asylum-seeker plowing a 25-ton lorry into them – are the corollary of Hollande and Merkel being complicit in US imperialist wars across the Middle East.

Merkel’s “open door” policy to a million refugees is a failed policy. That judgment is not based on racism or xenophobia. Merkel’s failure is due to her allowing Germany to become an escape valve for US, British and French criminal machinations of regime change in the Middle East.

So it has been a good year for Putin and Russia’s international standing generally – the recent appalling assassination of ambassador Andrey Karlov in Ankara notwithstanding.

It’s also been an atrocious year for Western politicians of the Atlanticist mold. But their downfall is due to their own corruption and incompetence. To seek to scapegoat Vladimir Putin and Russia as “interfering” or “sowing chaos” is a contemptible denial of Western official culpability.

Such is the collapse in official Western politics and institutions, including the establishment media, that the more they spin the anti-Russian narrative, the more popular revolt will grow against their “mis-leaders”.

If 2016 becomes a vintage year for Russia, for the West it is proving to be year when the official political vessels cracked open with bitter contents.

_____

Finian Cunningham is former editor and writer for major news media organizations. He has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Information Clearing House editorial policy.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/46135.htm

Categories: Uncategorized

A Radical, Questionable Move …

… Venezuela Withdraws Its 100 Bolivar Notes

by Chris Gilbert

CounterPunch (December 16 2016)

Venezuela’s government has made the radical decision to withdraw the heretofore largest bill from circulation. President Nicolas Maduro made this decision public on Sunday, December 11, indicating that the 100 bolivar note would cease to be valid in 72 hours, after which it could be delivered to the country’s Central Bank.

The alleged reason for this decision is to strike at mafias engaged in illegal money transactions on the border with Colombia. It is also claimed that an NGO, with ties to the US Treasury, aimed to buy up all the circulating currency and thereby destabilize the government. These heterogenous claims – the first tinted with anti-Colombian sentiment – are most likely not the real or at least not the central reasons for this surprising move.

Most likely the main objective in the demonetization of the 100 bolivar bill is to dramatically reduce liquidity and hence stem inflation. That is why the step has not produced significant resistance in the banking sector. The economist Francisco Rodriguez, former executive of Bank of America, sees it as positive.

The problem of illegal money, as Prabhat Patnaik explains reflecting on a similar move by Indian prime minister Modi, is much more complicated than simple stockpiles of cash. Obviously, a radical step like this one, in India or in Venezuela, could constitute a momentary blow to those involved in illegal operations, but it will not affect the essence of their various rackets, which will recover in the short or medium term.

How should a leftist evaluate this recent step? Undoubtedly, it affects the common people in their daily transactions: paying bus fares, buying newspapers, or making purchases in small markets without access to credit-debit card lines. It also touches the informal merchants who represent an important part of the economy. In Venezuela, the informal economy always grows around Christmas, with booming sales of trinkets, holiday foods, and crafts.

In the last instance, one’s evaluation of the step will go hand in hand with how one judges Maduro’s decision to rigorously satisfy the needs of financial capital in the country by paying all key bills and debts on time. These policies have made the Venezuelan president the most recent, if most surprising, poster boy of the Financial Times. The current step, because it tends toward macroeconomic stabilization, is in line with this general attitude.

However, I believe that this overall line is a mistaken one. Global financial capital cannot easily be made into a conjunctural ally. It is rather an inseparable, unshakable secret sharer. The bloc that Maduro may have in mind, composed of global financial capital at one extreme, and public employees and the poor masses on the other, is an unrealistic and unstable one.

It is an unstable alliance precisely because, when push comes to shove, the financial sector, which is supremely agile and well organized, will leave the popular elements by the wayside when it opts for one of the many other possible political alliances that are open to it. Socialism, even as a long-term goal, must step out of the picture.

What is being constructed has the appearance of a chimera in which a belligerent and pro-socialist discourse combines with a silent sell out. The president and other leaders may not be aware of this; they may think that the satisfaction of the financial world’s imperatives is just a short term, necessary concession. But insofar as it leads to demobilization, apathy, and confusion in what were once the pro-socialist bases, it also hamstrings the popular force that could redirect the country on a progressive or socialist path.

Socialism needs socialists, just as anti-imperialism needs anti-imperialists. The errors of statist and substitutionist practices, which tempt leaders as the paths of least resistance, are well-known lessons of history. It is not with a public, televised discourse that one constructs socialism but with an organic force diffused among millions of individuals. Here, this is called “popular power”, and it is precisely what is in danger of being lost.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/12/16/a-radical-questionable-move-venezuela-withdraws-its-100-bolivar-notes/

Categories: Uncategorized

Is India’s Cash Ban …

… a Test Case for the West?

by Secular Investor

Zero Hedge (January 08 2017)

Source: BBC.com

In November of last year, the board of India’s central bank {1} approved the removal of high denomination bank notes. Surprisingly, the central bank didn’t announce the vote count so this decision really seems to have been made in a rush to serve prime minister Modri, as he announced the ban {2} immediately after the vote. This means we have absolutely no idea whether the vote ended on 6-4 or 10-0, and why there were any dissenting opinions (if any).

Source: BBC.com

The decision to abolish the high denomination bank notes shouldn’t be taken lightly, as they represent almost ninety percent (!) of all bank notes in circulation and on top of that, India is predominantly a cash-nation. Most businesses and consumers prefer to seal their transactions with cash rather than plastic and digital money, and now hundreds of millions of Indians were forced to line up at the banks to try to convert their cash in new and approved notes. Some even claim the cash ban could actually have a major impact on the economic growth of India in the past and the current quarter.

Source: bloombergquint.com

India aimed to reduce the size of the shadow economy, but data suggests this wasn’t really necessary as the size of the shadow economy [aka black market] as a percentage of the country’s GDP has been shrinking {3} for several years in a row now. As the majority of this shadow economy has been locked up in tangible assets and real estate, the crackdown on high-denomination rupee bills might miss its target.

On top of that, cash shortages have been reported for the past eight weeks (confirming the potential impact on the economic growth). One would think the central bank would have an emergency plan ready to go, because after all, the 500 rupee note {4} currently has a value of just $7 (using the current exchange rates), so it might not be comparable to the European Central Bank’s move to take the 500 euro bills ($527 at current exchange rates) out of rotation.

It’s not a secret a cash-less society has been the “wet dream” of policy makers for quite a while now. Pretending it’s a “safer way” to execute monetary transactions whilst preventing the shadow economy to continue to increase in size by cutting down on the larger denominations. Technically, that’s a fair assumption, but you definitely should keep in mind this will reduce the (financial) flexibility of every participant in the society, and all your monetary movements could easily be tracked whether you have something to hide or not.

The Common Reporting Standard (“CRS”) which was initiated last year and will be fully implemented this year (as some countries still had to ratify their participation in CRS) is a next step to get an in-depth overview of the financial flows. In some countries, the tax department will receive more information about the accounts you own abroad compared to your domestic bank accounts.

Big Brother is watching you, and let’s be honest, if the world is full of alleged Russian hackers who have bad intentions, the very worst idea is to force everyone to digitalize all currency. If supposedly important government agencies and political parties can be hacked, why would the banking system be unhackable?

In India, the population was invited to exchange some of its old currency in new bank notes, but the majority of the cash that was brought to the bank was mandatorily placed on bank accounts. An excellent move from the anti-cash perspective, but this case shows how fast a society could implement a cash ban.

And for a bogus reason. This chart was published by researchers from the University of Manchester {5} and CLEARLY show there is absolutely no correlation at all between the total amount of cash in circulation and the level of corruption …

Source: blog.policy.manchester.ac.uk

Within HOURS. That’s how fast 86% of a country’s cash stash was deemed to be “illegal” and completely worthless. And this might very well happen in western countries as well.

Links:

{1} https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-12-29/india-s-rbi-approved-cash-ban-just-hours-before-modi-s-speech

{2} http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-37983834

{3} http://indianexpress.com/article/business/economy/ambit-capital-black-economy-shrinking-pegged-at-20-per-cent-of-gdp-2835783/

{4} http://www.reuters.com/article/us-india-modi-corruption-idUSKBN14K0G2

{5} http://blog.policy.manchester.ac.uk/posts/2016/12/demonetisation-in-india-the-fight-against-black-money/

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-01-08/india%E2%80%99s-cash-ban-test-case-west

Categories: Uncategorized

The Gathering Storm

Donald Trump and the Hollowed-Out American Heartland

by Sean Posey

http://www.hamptoninstitution.org (April 13 2016)

During the winter of 2016, the ever-present visage of Donald J Trump remained burned into television sets and computer screens across America. In the well-manicured lawns of the modest working-class homes of Austintown, Ohio, situated in long-struggling Mahoning County, “Team Trump. Rebuild America” signs began popping up everywhere.

Formerly a sparsely populated farming community, Austintown grew as a working-class suburb in the decades after World War Two. Steel and autoworkers could commonly afford vacations and college tuition for their children; the community, in many ways, symbolized the working-class American Dream. By 1970, Austintown, along with the neighboring township of Boardman, was part of the largest unincorporated area in the state [1]. The township’s population peaked in 1980 at 33,000. Today, however, it’s a very different place. Job losses in the local manufacturing sector and the graying of the population led Forbes to label Austintown as the “fifth-fastest dying town” in the country in the midst of the Great Recession. The township’s poverty rate had already reached nearly fourteen percent in the year before the meltdown of Wall Street. [2]

The 2016 Ohio Republican primary in Mahoning County witnessed the largest shift of Democratic voters to the Republican Party in decades. “Most of them crossed over to vote for Donald Trump”, remarked David Betras, Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman. [3]

This used to be Democrat country. But like so many other places in America, the brash billionaire’s message is remaking the local political landscape. Trump narrowly lost the Ohio primary to incumbent Governor John Kasich. However, he won the majority of Republican primary voters in Mahoning County and in neighboring Trumbull County, home to the city of Warren – one of the most embattled municipalities in the state. Winning his home state should have been a given for Kasich; instead, Trump pushed the twice-elected governor to the brink.

Ohio is not the only place in the heartland the Trump tornado is sweeping through. Scores of America’s most insecure communities are joining the once prosperous Buckeye State in flirting with or joining the mogul’s camp. Yet, for as much attention as has been paid to Trump and the often controversial movement behind him, far less has been said about the cracking core of a country that is currently looking for a savior, any savior, in such enormously troubled times.

Years before America’s most famous real estate and reality television personality descended a gold escalator at Trump Tower to announce his candidacy for president, long-time journalists Dale Maharidge and Michael Williamson began a cross-country journey to document America in the wake of the 911 attacks.

“On one trip”, Maharidge writes,

 

 

I drove from Chicago to Johnstown, Pennsylvania. In places like this, the abandoned shells of factories, all broken windows and rust, make this country look like it was bombed in a war. In other places it’s as if an economic neutron bomb hit-with trees and houses intact but lives decimated, gone with good jobs. [4]

 

 

Traditionally, this part of the heartland represented the economic engine of industrial America, filled with good-paying jobs in manufacturing. However, the great economic dislocations of the past forty-odd years have rendered much of this landscape a void, one more akin to the developing world than that of the United States. Even for the more outwardly normal communities, as Maharidge mentions, looks can be deceiving. Heroin is hitting the inner core of the country with a hammer force, destroying young lives already beset by economic insecurity and the end of upward mobility.

Perhaps even more disturbing is the declining life expectancy for a large swath of working-class whites, one of Trump’s key constituencies. For the past sixteen years, death rates have risen for Caucasians between the ages of 45 and 54 and also for those between the ages of 25 to 34. [5] These are notable exceptions to the overall increase in life expectancy for all groups, regardless of race or ethnicity. While working class whites in Europe continue to experience increases in life expectancy, their counterparts in America are dying from drugs, suicide, and despair. [6]

The relationship between growing white death rates and support for Trump appears in the voting data. “Trump seems to represent a shrinking, in part dying segment of America”, writes Jeff Guo in a detailed analysis of election results for the state of Iowa. [7] This holds true for other states as well. Guo goes on to demonstrate that, with the exception of Massachusetts, “the counties with high rates of white mortality were the same counties that turned out to vote for Trump”. Many of these same voters are located in former industrial centers which themselves, in many ways, are also dying.

The deindustrialization of America first appeared in the Northeast and then in the former “Industrial Belt” (now dubbed the “Rust Belt” for the region’s numerous decaying factories), stretching from Central New York to Illinois and Wisconsin. However, offshoring and free trade agreements have also severely damaged manufacturing centers in the “Right to Work” states of the South. Anger over free trade deals is driving much of Trump’s populist economic rhetoric; a similar, though smaller effect, is being felt with Bernie Sanders’s campaign on the Democratic side.

Despite regional changes, overall employment in manufacturing remained at a steady level until the end of the 1990s. Free trade agreements like Nafta and the granting of “most favored nation” status to China (along with China’s entry in the WTO in 2001) greatly undermined American manufacturing employment, which has almost continually declined over the past two decades. Aside for the traditional Rust Belt states, Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, and Mississippi are among the top ten states in terms of loss of total share of manufacturing jobs. [8] Trump won all but Kansas during the Republican primaries. His campaign also looks to be pursuing a “Rust Belt strategy” for the general election, which could see the wooing of disaffected former Reagan Democrats and independents who will never embrace the Clinton candidacy. So, if Trump were to falter in states with large Latino populations, he could (in theory) potentially take economically troubled swing states like Ohio (no Republican has won a general election without it) and Michigan. Trump’s appeal with working class voters could put traditionally Democratic states such as Wisconsin and Pennsylvania in play as well in November.

Much is being made (rightfully) of the violent clashes at Trump rallies – often connected to the nativist and authoritarian overtones of the campaign itself. Yet far less attention is paid to the outlet Trump is providing by borrowing populist strains from the political left and right. With the exception of Bernie Sanders, who is facing increasing hostility from the party elite, the Democrats appear unwilling to tap into the mounting frustration over inequality, free trade deals, deindustrialization, and stagnant wages.

After their apocalyptic defeat in the 1972 presidential election, the Democratic elite began to push for the transition from a labor-oriented party to one rooted in the professional (upper) middle class. The process greatly accelerated under the auspices of the Democratic Leadership Council and Bill Clinton in the 1990s. It brought the party electoral success, but as the upper ten percent of the country prospered – including the new elite professional class loyal to the Democrats – economic conditions deteriorated for the party’s old base and for the majority of the country at large.

In Thomas Frank’s latest book, Listen, Liberal: Or, Whatever Happened to the Party of the People (2016), the acerbic author takes a painful look at the effect of the unmooring of the Democratic Party from its roots in the working class:

 

 

Since 1992, Democrats have won the plurality of votes in every single election except one. For six of those years, they controlled Congress outright. But on matters of inequality they have done vanishingly little: They have stubbornly refused to change course when every signal said stop. [9]

 

 

It is indisputable that Republican policies during the same period also greatly increased inequality; however, the old liberal class of Franklin Roosevelt’s party should have been the antidote to supply-side poison. They failed. And while the Republicans are paying the price for offering disaffected white workers the wages of identity politics (while advancing policies that destroy their livelihoods) the Democrats are likely next in line for the blowback.

“If you read mainstream coverage of Donald Trump, it’s all focused on the bigotry and intolerance”, Thomas Franks writes, “but there is another element, which is [he] talks about trade and he talks about it all the time” [10]. Where is the Democratic Party on trade? It took the Democrats and Bill Clinton to succeed where George H W Bush failed and get Nafta passed, which devastated whole regions and cost the country 700,000 jobs [11]. President Obama and Hillary Clinton both championed the Trans-Pacific Partnership – which will also cost working class jobs – over the objections of labor. (Clinton has since tried to walk back her initial support.) According to analysis by The Atlantic, “The trade pact will increase the importation of competing goods, which will drive down the cost of US-made goods, putting downward pressure on wages”. Even Breitbart News, a stalwart conservative publication, condemns the TPP for its likely effect on the working class, while the Obama Administration relentlessly pushes for its passage:

 

 

The question that conservatives must answer in the on-going debate over President Barack Obama’s proposal to rewrite the rules for the world’s economy through the Trans-Pacific Partnership is whether following General Electric’s agenda to flatten the world’s regulatory regimes to produce efficiencies in manufacturing and labor is in the interests of the United States? [12]

 

 

It is difficult to imagine President Obama ever uttering such words about a free trade deal.

Only Senator Sanders has rallied to the defense of labor and the sections of the country hard-hit by trade; Clinton by contrast is seemingly ready to turn her back on the traditional manufacturing heartland in the Midwest and parts of the South. In reality, the Democratic Party’s record over the pasty 25 years on everything from trade to protections for labor is a fantastically dismal one.

The best strategy to counter Trump’s rise would be to focus on the legitimate grievances of much of his constituency while countering his appeal to identity politics. Democratic elites who view the white working class as hopelessly racist are playing into Trump’s hands (while also discounting the racism of the professional class). But while they dither, the thunder of a movement inspired by the storm that is Donald Trump continues to coalesce. And even if Trump disappears from the political radar tomorrow, the backlash he has inspired will live on.

From the crumbling factory walls of the Rust Belt to the shuttered main streets of the Deep South, a revolt is underway. The long forgotten “flyover country” is erupting in a paroxysm of anger and despair over the generations of decline that have battered once solid bastions of white working and lower-middle class America. With progressive voices replaced by neoliberal orthodoxy, no constructive outlets remain to channel the cacophony emerging from the heartland. With a fading Bernie Sanders and a rising Trump, the outcome might already be decided. If both parties fail to come up with economic solutions for decaying sections of the country’s interior (and if no radical movements emerge from the grass roots), the potential for the worst possible right-wing backlash will remain. It is certain that America will never right itself until it deals with this crisis; if it does not, the forces of nativism and demagoguery will win the day. And from there, we will all reap the whirlwind.

Notes:
[1] Charles Etlinger, “Mahoning Valley Faces 70s Crisis”, Youngstown Vindicator (September 27 1970).

[2] “Austintown 5th-Fastest Dying Town in US Says Forbes”, Vindicator (December 20 2008).

[3] Peter H Milliken, “The Elephant in the Room”, Vindicator (March 20 2016).

[4] Dale Maharidge and Michael Williamson, Homeland (2004), page xlii.

[5] Wonkblog, Jeff Guo, “The Places That Support Trump and Cruz are Suffering. But That’s Not True of Rubio”, The Washington Post (February 08 2016).

[6] Olga Khazan, “Middle-Aged White Americans are Dying of Despair”, The Atlantic (November 04 2015).

[7] Wonkblog, Jeff Guo, “Death Predicts Whether People Vote for Donald Trump”, The Washington Post (March 04 2016).

[8] “The Manufacturing Footprint and the Importance of US Manufacturing Jobs”, Economic Policy Institute (January 22 2015).

[9] Thomas Frank, Listen, Liberal: Or, Whatever Happened to the Party of the People? (2016), page 9.

[10] “It’s not Bigotry but Bad Trade Deals Driving Trump Voters, Says Author Thomas Frank”, CBC Radio: http://www.cbc.ca/radio/thecurrent/the-current-for-march-16-2016-1.3493397/it-s-not-bigotry-but-bad-trade-deals-driving-trump-voters-says-author-thomas-frank-1.3493433 (accessed March 22, 2016).

[11] “Nafta’s Impact on US Workers”, Economic Policy Institute (December 09 2013).

[12] Rick Manning, “A Rebuttal to National Review’s Claim that White Working Class Communities Deserve to Die”, Bretibart News (March 17 2016).

http://www.hamptoninstitution.org/trump-and-the-hollowed-out-american-heartland.html

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End All the Craziness …

… Over North Korea

by Eric Margolis

http://ericmargolis.com (January 07 2017)

North Korea has “entered the final stage of preparation for the test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (“ICBM”)”. So crowed North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jong-un, in his New Year’s Day message aimed at tough-talking US president-elect, Donald Trump.

In case there was any doubt about Pyongyang’s meaning, Kim warned his nation would continue to build its “capability for preemptive strike” as long as the US and its allies continued their nuclear threats and “war games they stage on our doorstep”.

Trump fired back, tweeting that North Korea’s nuclear threats against the US “won’t happen”. Well, not if tweets can shoot down incoming ICBM’s. A lot of Americans dismissed Kim’s braggadocio as more hot air from a world-class producer. But one should not quickly dismiss North Korea’s claims. The US has always underestimated North Korea.

But there no need to squander trillions on new anti-missile defenses based in Alaska and California that may not work as advertised. North Korea’s missiles are designed to deter a US attack.

The alleged dire threat from North Korea can be better and more swiftly resolved by intelligent diplomacy and some calm thinking.

North Korea is a small, backwards, dirt poor nation of 25 million that has been under a fierce US-imposed sanctions regime for over half a century. Call it a North Asian Cuba. Without modest economic and military help from China, North Korea would likely have collapsed long ago. It remains under constant siege by the US and allies.

It’s easy to dismiss pip-squeak North Korea and sneer at its pretensions to major power status. That would be a mistake. In 1950, at the time of the Korean War, North Korea’s economy was larger than that of South Korea thanks to Japan’s colonial industrial policies. Korea’s Communists, like their allies in China, took the lead in fighting Japanese occupation. America suffered heavy casualties fighting North Korean forces.

To many Koreans, particularly young ones, North Korea is the authentic Korea while South Korea remains a well-off but politically powerless American semi-protectorate. The humiliating collapse and impeachment of South Korea’s first female president, scandal-ridden Park Geun-hye, only reinforces the South’s image as a rudderless ship in stormy seas.

The big question remains, is Kim Jong-un really near to deploying an ICBM that can deliver a nuclear warhead to America? The answer appears to be yes.

A consensus of military experts now accepts that North Korea has at least ten nuclear devices, and maybe possesses up to thirty. Some have been miniaturized so they can fit atop the North’s medium-ranged missiles, thus threatening South Korea, much of Japan, Okinawa and perhaps the major US Pacific base at Guam.

North Korea is steadily developing the means of putting another stage atop its proven medium-range missiles that can allow the enhanced missile to strike parts of North America. But having a few nuclear-armed ICBM’s – as India does already – does not mean that the US faces Armageddon, as too many ill-informed politicians claim.

As leader Kim stated on new year, his nation’s ICBM program has two objectives: counter US threats to use its tactical nuclear weapons based in South Korea, Guam, Okinawa and at sea on the 7th Fleet against North Korea in the event of a war. Or, as Pyongyang greatly fears, a surprise decapitating first nuclear strike to wipe out North Korea’s leadership and command/control targets. Russia, by the way, shares similar fears of a surprise US strike.

Second, Kim calls on the US and South Korea to stop their huge annual military exercises practicing for a land and amphibious invasion of North Korea. Each fall these very provocative war games send North Korea into a frenzy of bloodthirsty threats and sabre rattling. Meanwhile, South Korea’s intelligence agencies pump out all sorts of gruesome stories about the Kim regime, many of them totally fake, that are eagerly amplified by South Korean and American media.

One of these days, the war games and barrages of threats could lead to a real shooting war. But, unlike US Congressmen and the media, who constantly fabricate scare stories about foreign dangers, many South Koreans remain blase about North Korea and far more concerned about their own imploding government than Kim’s bombast. As in the US, fundamentalist Christian sects in South Korea play a key role in fostering alarms about North Korea.

North Korea is rattling its cage in hopes of easing or ending the US-led embargo and military threats against Pyongyang. What it really craves is long-denied recognition by Washington and an end to US regime-change efforts. Pyongyang has long asked the US for a peace pact to end the Korean War. South Korea keeps pressing the US to keep North Korea isolated – but not too isolated lest the eccentric communist regime collapse, sending millions of starving refugees south.

Meanwhile, Washington’s pro-Israel neocons keep trying to sabotage any agreements with Pyongyang. They fear the North will supply more missiles and technology to Iran.

Instead of building more elaborate anti-missile systems, why not have Donald Trump invite Kim Jong-un to a nice lunch in Beijing and work out a deal that will end the state of war between North Korea and the US in exchange for Kim ending his nuclear programs. The US recognizes all kinds of unsavory regimes around the globe. Why keep pounding on Kim when diplomacy and trade are the grown-up answer. A few friendly tweets from Trump might even be a good start.

Copyright Eric S Margolis 2017

http://ericmargolis.com/2017/01/end-all-the-craziness-over-north-korea/

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US Aristocracy Panics …

… that Maybe Trump is Serious

by Eric Zuesse via Strategic-Culture.org {1}

Zero Hedge (January 08 2017)

On January 2nd, the US Republican Party’s Wall Street Journal headlined “Tensions Within GOP Rise Over How to Handle Russia” {2}, and reported that the policy toward Russia by the incoming Republican President Donald Trump is being opposed not only by Democrats in the US Congress, but also by some Republicans, and perhaps even by enough Republicans to jeopardize confirmation of his nominee for US Secretary of State, as well as some nominees for other crucial diplomatic and military positions.

A key insightful passage in that news-report was:

 

 

“What you are seeing on Russia within the Republican Party is in some ways more a symptom of realignment across the board within American political parties”, said Matthew Rojansky, director of the Washington-based Kennan Institute. “This speaks to something very critical that’s going on in our political system right now”.

 

 

Trump is being significantly opposed by both Parties regarding his foreign policies, even though his domestic policies are being opposed on a far more partisan basis, by Democrats, and have a higher chance of congressional passage than his international initiatives do, because of the almost-solid support for his domestic policies on the part of Republican members of Congress – and because Republicans control both the Senate and the House.

The “realignment across the board within American political parties” is actually a realignment only in the field of foreign policy – not at all in domestic policy. What used to be “Republican foreign policy” ever since the time of Richard Nixon, has been called “neoconservatism” – referring to a hard line against communism and then against Russia and any country that’s friendly toward Russia – but the incoming Republican President Trump campaigned consistently against neoconservatism, and now Democrats are almost solidly neocons {3}, while some Republicans are actually joining the Republican President in condemning neocons.

Whereas Trump is generally called “conservative” on his domestic policy statements, he could possibly turn out to be more of a “progressive” than his Democratic Party predecessor, President Barack Obama, was, regarding foreign affairs. And this terrifies the US aristocracy in both of the political Parties, because the US aristocracy – both its Republicans and its Democrats – has been solidly neoconservative {4}: they are virtually united, on this, against Trump {5}.

The US aristocracy control not only the major American corporations, but all influential “news” media; and their shared fear and loathing for incoming US President Donald Trump is clear, even though he himself is one of them. Nobody knows what will happen to the US government under his stewardship, but the fear amongst almost all of the other aristocrats is that maybe Trump hasn’t only been pretending to want a “populist” government – they fear that he might really have such revolutionary intentions. They are consequently afraid: might it really be the case that a revolution – especially one transforming America’s foreign policies, which are the policies that are of the greatest interest to aristocrats (more even than domestic policies are) – will be led by a member of their own class? Is the ruling class – the thousand or so of them in the US – perhaps now splitting, in a way that is far more meaningful than the merely superficial (rhetorical) distinctions that still remain between America’s two major political Parties, the Republicans and the Democrats?

The old ideological political alliances within the United States have now utterly broken down, and the reason is that in recent decades, both the right and the left had been controlled behind the scenes, by America’s billionaires and centi-millionaires, who are virtually unanimous on some policy-issues (so that the US has a one-party government on these matters), with no significant ideological dissent amongst the US aristocracy on those key issues, especially about continuing the old ideological Cold War against communism, switched now into a purely nationalistic and increasingly hot war against Russia, as allegedly an evil and imperialistic nation in ways that the United States itself is supposedly not (but actually is even more so than Russia or any other nation in the world, and widely recognized as such, except inside the United States itself {6}, where the aristocracy’s “news” media hide this ugly nationalistic fact about the land they control {7} – the fact of America’s being the world’s most aggressive nation).

America’s super-rich have no objection against the government that they control conquering others, like the Iraq-invasion in 2003, and the US coup overthrowing and replacing the democratically elected and Moscow-friendly President of that country in 2014 {8}, and aiding jihadists in Syria to overthrow Syria’s pro-Russian secular government; and the phone-tapping of all Western leaders including Angela Merkel and generally practicing cyber-invasions everywhere in the world – but they and their agents allege that Russia is doing these things even worse than America is, and needs to be punished by the “virtuous” US government for (allegedly) doing what the US actually does far more than any other nation in the world.

Though Trump has reversed himself on many things that threaten the US aristocracy, such as by his saying he won’t, after all, prosecute Hillary Clinton for her crimes (which were never really investigated under Obama’s regime – and protecting the legal immunity of aristocrats is crucial to the aristocracy of both political Parties), Trump still hasn’t – now just days before entering the White House – reversed himself regarding his intention to improve relations with Russia.

Becoming even more hostile toward Russia is almost a unanimous goal of the US aristocracy. They’re thus rebelling against him, in their “news” media, and they won’t stop trying to cripple his Presidency unless and until he relents on this, turns around, and continues, ever-hotter than before, their (under Obama, increasing) “Cold War” against Russia: going beyond even what President Obama has been doing (coups, invasions, sanctions, et cetera), aiming to replace the Russian government’s allies by the American government’s allies, and thus to isolate and weaken Russia, ultimately to take over Russia itself.

During the early years of the Cold War, America’s Republican Party and their “news” media, especially insisted upon increasing the war against the Soviet Union; but, now, in the purely nationalistic war against Russia, it’s instead Democratic Party politicians and “news” media, who are especially fervid to conquer Russia. Republican Party “news” media, such as Fox “news”, are now considerably less hateful toward Russia, no longer obsessed against it, like the Democratic Party’s “news” media have become – thereby switching political roles.

Consequently, too, for example, the Democratic Party’s Washington Post is doing everything they can to encourage US conquest of Russia, such as by spreading fake “news” stories against the few small independent Western newsmedia that are pointing out the lies (especially the ones against Russia) in such media-giants; and some of the Republican Party’s “news” media now are even doing in-depth actual news-reporting about the fraudulence of the Democratic Party’s “news” media, on these matters that are of such intense interest to America’s aristocrats.

Excellent examples of this phenomenon are provided by the various “news” media of the rightwing-populist Alex Jones, which featured, on New Year’s Day, the video “Dems Want War With Russia To Stop Trump” {9}, and an associated investigative news report from their Mikael Thalen, “Washington Post Stirs Fear After False Report of Power Grid Hack by Russia” {10}, exposing the Washington Post’s lying propaganda for “War With Russia” – Democrats’ (and a few Republicans’) lies basically to promote unsubstantiated allegations by the Obama regime, that “Russian hacking” is a danger both to American “democracy”, and to American national security.

That “War With Russia” video (at 5:00-) presents the futurist, Gerald Celente, discussing liberal Democrats who were saying, totally without evidence, such things as {11} “Vermonters and all Americans should be both alarmed and outraged that one of the world’s leading thugs, Vladimir Putin, has been attempting to hack our electric grid, which we rely upon to support our quality of life, economy, health, and safety”. The infamous 1950s Republican, Joseph R McCarthy, has thus non-ideologically returned from the grave, now, in the guise of liberal Democrats (or should that instead be “Democrats”?), as part of the US aristocracy’s war to force the Republican President, Donald Trump, to join the tradition that the Republican President George Herbert Walker Bush established, on 24 February 1990 {12}, of treating Russia as being America’s enemy, no longer communism as being America’s enemy.

These people simply can’t draw enough of other people’s blood. Bram Stoker {13} might be shocked that reality has thus produced ghouls {14} who would make Stoker’s own legendary vampires seem like angels by comparison. Will Trump perform the role of Stoker’s hero, Abraham van Helsing {15} here, or instead become just another of the vampires himself (which all of America’s major, and most of its minor, “news” media are demanding)?

Links:

{1} http://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2017/01/08/us-aristocracy-panics-that-maybe-trump-serious.html

{2} http://www.wsj.com/articles/tensions-within-gop-rise-over-how-to-handle-russia-1483403833

{3} http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-10-20/us-foreign-policy-elites-eagerly-await-expansion-overseas-wars-under-hillary-clinton

{4} http://web.archive.org/web/20160812044634/https:/foreignpolicy.com/2016/07/27/hillary-the-hawk-a-history-clinton-2016-military-intervention-libya-iraq-syria/

{5} https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Republicans_who_opposed_the_Donald_Trump_presidential_campaign,_2016

{6} http://www.commondreams.org/news/2013/12/31/biggest-threat-world-peace-united-states

{7} http://www.commondreams.org/views/2014/04/14/us-oligarchy-not-democracy-says-scientific-study

{8} https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-RyOaFwcEw

{9} https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXTz20oIPy4

{10} http://www.infowars.com/washington-post-stirs-fear-after-false-report-of-power-grid-hack-by-russia/

{11} https://theintercept.com/2016/12/31/russia-hysteria-infects-washpost-again-false-story-about-hacking-u-s-electric-grid/

{12} http://rinf.com/alt-news/breaking-news/how-america-double-crossed-russia-and-shamed-the-west/

{13} https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bram_Stoker

{14} https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghoul

{15} https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dracula

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-01-08/us-aristocracy-panics-maybe-trump-serious

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